I Live in a Sock Factory: Guatemala City
I had never considered how socks are made. I put them on my feet every day without a thought for the people or processes involved. I had no idea there are sock ironing machines, or that there are people who’s whole job is to turn newly knitted socks inside out so the toes can be sewn shut. Living at Cisco’s factory changed my view of socks forever!
We were introduced to Cisco by the KLR rider, Carlos, who we met on the side of the road as we left San Cristobal de las Casas. Cisco replied to the email that Carlos sent out and invited us to stay with him when we made it to Guatemala City. Cisco also turned out to be the man who could help us with all that ailed our bikes.
Cisco let us unload our bikes into an empty warehouse at the factory beside his house, before we took the bikes away to be fixed up.
The welders at the factory fixed Phil’s ammo can panniers – restoring them to solid, square, boxes after the beating they took going up to El Mirador. Those soldaduras couldn’t weld my aluminum panniers, but Cisco took us to a place where they had the right equipment. The seams of my boxes had started to split after the many drops I had subjected them to.
We drove around through the crazy traffic in the city in search of a new rear tire for Jugs, a new visor for my helmet, new gloves and a fix for Phil’s front suspension, which had been “clunking”.
The incredible people at the BMW dealership came to our rescue with half price gloves for me, and a great selection of tires at good prices. Phil got a Continental TKC for just over $100.
No luck on a new visor for my Shoei helmet, the one I have is a bit scratched, and isn’t great if we ever get stuck riding at night. It’s still okay though so no tragedy that we couldn’t find a replacement.
Our final stop was at a real, open, Kawasaki dealership. We hadn’t seen one of these since the USA! Klaus and his team were incredibly supportive, and offered to work on our bikes at very low prices. They like to support travellers.
That weekend we went with Cisco to his family’s house on Lake Atitlan. It was a long ride along all sorts of roads, with beautiful views. We stopped in Antigua for coffee and a boot shine.
The road down to the lake is under construction, and has a lot of tight switchbacks. The most challenging section by far, however, was the incredibly steep driveway down to the house. My long suffering brother was a star and rode my bike down for me, as I was sure I would either drop my bike or crash into the wall at the bottom.
Unfortunately I started suffering a sore throat the day we left for the lake, and it got progressively worse over the course of the weekend. As Cisco said at one point, “If you’re going to be sick, the lake is a great place to be.” I slept a lot.
The house is gorgeous, right on the lake side. In fact the lake has steadily risen over the past few years, and the boathouse they built 4 years ago is now mostly underwater.
Lake Atitlan is nestled in the middle of several volcanoes, and has no outlet streams or rivers. Water goes in, but it doesn’t flow out.
We had some pretty intense rain while we were there, the start of the rainy season is upon us!
We met up with our Irish friend Ruth from San Ignacio, and Phil rode to Antigua on Sunday to play Ultimate Frisbee. He ended up staying there overnight, because the switchbacks down to the lake are pretty intense, especially in the rain. We picked him up on our way back to the city Monday morning.
I had been spending a lot of time thinking about and missing Christian. I could not continue travelling with my heart in Cozumel. It wasn’t fair on Phil to have me split that way, and I was finding it difficult to be present in the trip. So in Guatemala City I booked a flight to Cancun. I was going back to the beautiful Caribbean island to see Christian for nearly two weeks. I knew that spending that time with Christian would either support or change our feelings for each other, and allow me to decide what my priorities were.
We dropped our bikes off at the Kawasaki dealership. I was having them install a new chain and sprockets and new front brake pads on Cricket. I was still running the same sprockets I started with almost 40,000 kilometers ago, so it was definitely time.
Cisco was preparing to leave on a 10 day motorbike tour of Mexico, so he dropped us at a hostel in town near the airport and Kawasaki. We could not thank him enough for all his help. What an amazing man. He even let me leave a bunch of my stuff at his house while I was away!
That evening a man personally delivered my airplane confirmation to me at the hostel (don’t get that kind of service back in London!) and the next morning, April 8th, 2013, I was up before 5am making the 5 minute walk to the airport.
Cozumel, here I come.